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But a site just south of it could open in March, a month earlier than usual, to satisfy residents’ desire for fresh manila and butter clams.
A state Fish and Wildlife emergency measure proposed last week closes the Point Whitney tidelands near Brinnon on the Hood Canal to clamming except for Point Whitney Lagoon, which will be open for harvest.
Ordinarily, the tidelands would have been open for clamming March 15, but a survey taken last summer shows that the clam population is so small that it should be given a rest.
The recommendation to the Fish and Wildlife Commission is that the beach be closed for the year.
“We’re going to give the beach a year off,” said Alex Bradbury of the Port Townsend field office for Fish and Wildlife.
“The clam population has been decreasing for the last three or four years,” he said.
Clams on the tidelands are planted by Fish and Wildlife.
“We used to plant larger seed, which is more expensive,” Bradbury said.
“We thought we could economize by planting smaller seed.”
Officials hope for a 25 percent survival rate. If 250,000 clams survive out of 1 million seeds planted, “that would be a good rate,” he said.
“We’ve been getting about half that . . .We wonder if the smaller seed has been a factor.
“Next month, we’ll plant a million, using larger seed.”
The emergency measure, now in effect, will be considered for official approval by the Fish and Wildlife Commission.
The next meeting is March 7-8, although the rules may be adopted before then.
Once adopted, rules become law in 31 days, Bradbury said.
A few miles south of Point Whitney, the Dosewallips State Park clamming areas are naturally seeded, and very healthy, Bradbury said.
So an emergency regulation has been proposed to open Dosewallips State Park clamming a month earlier than normal, which would have been April 1.
“It gives people used to clamming at Point Whitney a close alternative,” Bradbury said, adding that Dosewallips is about a five-minute drive on U.S. Highway 101 from Point Whitney.
The season at Dosewallips will run through July 15. The Point Whitney beach closed last year after only two weeks.
“Most beaches in the Hood Canal seed naturally,” Bradbury said.
But not Point Whitney.
“Whitney gets a huge amount of people and has a small beach and for whatever reason is not a natural collector of seed,” Bradbury explained.
The Point Whitney Lagoon, located behind the cyclone fence, remains open for clamming through March 15.
The Point Whitney tidelands closure doesn’t affect oyster season.
That opened Jan. 1 and will remain open through June 30.
Clam surveys are done every summer on major public tidelands.
Samples are studied and tribal co-managers of the public lands are consulted before Fish and Wildlife submits proposals for the season at the end of December or in January.
“Next summer, when we do a larger survey, hopefully we will see some growth in the numbers of clams,” Bradbury said.
A survey next summer will provide information about possibly opening in 2015.
Licenses are needed for recreational clamming. A resident pays $16.50 for a license to collect a daily limit of 40 clams or 10 pounds, whichever comes first, Bradbury said.
License can be purchased on the Fish and Wildlife website at wdfw.wa.gov/ or at sporting good stores.